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'It worries us': Advocates call on FCCS to end contracts with out-of-state facilities with histories of alleged abuse

Franklin County and state Medicaid financial records show the state has spent at least $50 million in the last five years sending children to out-of-state facilities

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Advocates for children in foster care are calling on Franklin County Children Services to end its contracts with out-of-state behavioral treatment facilities with histories of alleged abuse.

Both Addison Torrence and Nikki Chinn are advocates for those in foster care or behavioral treatment facilities.  Both have personal experiences in group or residential facilities.

In a Sept. 29 letter, Torrence and Chinn wrote: “It worries us that many out-of-state facilities contracted by FCCS are operated by these companies under investigation for child maltreatment. We call on FCCS to terminate its out-of-state contracts with facilities operated by Acadia, Universal Health Services and Devereux…”

Two U.S. Senators who raised concerns about the treatment of children in residential treatment facilities drafted letters to the companies this summer asking about the treatment of children in their care.

Senators Ron Wyden, D- Oregon, and Patty Murray, D – Washington, penned the letters in July and cited the previous reporting of 10 Investigates and other news outlets in their reference materials.

Last Thursday, FCCS forwarded the letter crafted by Torrence and Chinn to licensing agencies in 10 states – including Ohio – urging the agencies in those states to “take any and all steps you deem appropriate in light of this information.”

It’s not immediately clear why FCCS waited until November 17 to send out the letters.

The agency was aware for weeks that 10 Investigates was looking into alleged mistreatment of children in out-of-state facilities. An FCCS spokeswoman has not responded to an email Monday asking for clarity.

FCCS’ letters were sent on the same day that 10 Investigates aired an investigative report that detailed how millions of public dollars were tied to sending children to out-of-state treatment facilities that have been mired by allegations of abuse and neglect.

Our reporting revealed out of the 37 out-of-state facilities where Ohio sends children, 10 Investigates found documented allegations of abuse or neglect in more than half of them.

Franklin County and state Medicaid financial records show the state has spent at least $50 million over the past five years sending children to out-of-state facilities. Many children sent to these facilities are connected to the foster care system or recommended to attend by juvenile court.

Torrence and Chinn are asking that FCCS – and the state of Ohio – should formulate a plan to start to bring children home. States like Oregon, Washington, California and now Texas have taken similar steps to bring children home from out-of-state facilities.

“They are placing youth in these facilities. It is their responsibility to make sure that youth they place and congregate care facilities are in a safe placement,” Nikki Chinn told 10 Investigates.”

Torrence added: “Other states like California and Oregon have done away with out-of-state placements. They brought their kids home. Ohio can and should bring its kids home but we need a plan first.”

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